Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beaches and big lips and shopping OH MY!

As the saying goes, careful what you wish for.

I have always thought it would be pretty amazing to look like Angelina Jolie. And wouldn't you know, this morning I awoke with lips so puffy and swollen, you'd swear I had been injected with collagen overnight. Only unlike it is for Miss Superstar Humanitarian Wondermom, big lips aren't looking so sexy on me. It must be a sunburn, unless some creepy crawly little thing bit me during the night... but let's not go there.

Maybe the swollen lips are punishment handed down by the Gods of Self-Imposed Rules, because as of now I have officially broken all three of my own. The first: No Coffee. Well come on, I am in Colombia after all. Can you blame me? The second: No Blackberry. Impossible, silly rule for an addict like me. The third: No Shopping. What can I say? I am weak. Pathetic and weak.

But isn't it always the case that when traveling, you just never seem to have the right clothes with you? Or, more like my situation right now, you start to hate the few things you do have? I look back on my 6 weeks traveling around Europe, and wonder how I didn't burn the 8 pieces of clothing I wore during that entire time. Come to think of it, maybe I did.

In my defense, the shopping wasn't completely my fault. The boutiques in the high-class beachfront neighborhood of Bocagrande (think La Jolla) are just too enticing to pass by. They beckon me with their very reasonable prices and fabulously unique made-in-Colombia fashions. Shame on them, not me. Those damn boutiques turned "not shopping" into Mission Impossible. And I am Angelina, remember? Not Tom Cruise.

I spent most of the day on Monday snoozing on the beach in Bocagrande, Blackberrying under a shady blue carpa (rentable by the day for only $5... or $4 with a little sweet-talking). Feigning sleep became my best defense against the parade of vendors marching up and down the beach, selling everything from recently deceased fish to massages to plastic watches. It was a perfectly content afternoon of beach naps and shopping, meant to be topped off with a trendy sushi dinner at Tabetai - where one very sexy Colombian sushi chef (he studied in Venezuela under a Japanese master) mixed up some of the most amazing sea bass ceviche and spicy tuna that I have ever tasted. I am happy to report that the new dress I had just guiltily bought quickly paid for itself. What else explains the complimentary glasses of wine that appeared at my table all evening?!

Tuesday was much less of a perfect day, and all I will say is that those of you considering a day trip to the beautiful Playa Blanca on the Island of Baru, well, don't. Yes, the beaches are gorgeous and oh so Caribbean, with pristine turquoise waters, swaying palm trees and long stretches of sugary white sand. But make this trip only if you plan to spend the night sleeping on a rented hammock or in a tent - something I would have loved to do had I timed my visit a little more, and if I wanted to tolerate the mosquito attacks that would surely be a part of this experience (which I didn't).

Early on Tuesday morning, I booked a seat on a high-speed motor boat, thinking I would avoid all the big tour groups and head direct to the island. Not quite so. By the time the boat actually got going, then made various stops around the bay for who-knows-what, then dropped off some folks at the touristy Aquarium, then slowed here and there to give a talking tour around the archipelago, it was well after 1pm when we actually made it to shore. And we had to turn around and head back at 3:30! The cruise out was fun enough, but the ride back was so smashy, choppy, churny and whiplashy I thought my spine would crack into two. I think actually it did. And so I hobbled my way back to the hotel, popped a few Motrin, and began to wonder if it was all really worth it. The jury is still out.

Wednesday. Hot, muggy, tired, icky. I have given myself a day off, and apart from a luxurious $4 spa pedicure, I have done as close to nothing as possible all day. Later tonight, I will take my achy back, two hilariously puffy lips, some cute new clothes and a dwindling bank account, and bid farewell to the beautiful city of Cartagena. Medellin awaits.

Snoozing beachfront in Bocagrande

Floating by the dock of the bay

Cruising away from Cartagena

There was a time I would only eat Lucky Charms.

Fresh coconut water served beachfront on Playa Blanca

I was caught! Yes, I bought some fruit in return.

Happiness comes in the simplest of forms.

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